Peru Set to Open Last Refuges of the Amazon to Oil and Gas Drilling


Amazon Watch Press Release

Date of publication: 
12 February 2010

National Indigenous Organization AIDESEP Rejects Impending Auction of New Oil Blocks in Amazonian Territory

Houston – Perupetro, the oil and gas-licensing arm of the Peruvian government, confirmed plans yesterday to auction another 19 hydrocarbon concessions in the Amazon rainforest. With these new concessions, two-thirds of the Peruvian Amazon are now earmarked for oil and gas drilling.

In the wake of the announcement, Peru’s national Amazonian indigenous organization, AIDESEP, issued a statement rejecting the new bidding round while ongoing social conflicts remain unresolved: “We condemn the government of Peru for not fulfilling its obligations and failing to protect indigenous territories… We believe these concessions will damage the Amazon rainforest irreversibly, hurting the indigenous peoples that live in it, as well as the rest of the world.”

“Companies considering investing in Peru should beware that the opening of the Amazon to extractive resource projects without the free prior and informed consent of indigenous communities prompted major protests last year which closed rivers, airports and roads across the Amazon and interrupted oil production,” said Mitch Anderson, Amazon Watch’s Corporate Accountability Director. “The government still has not addressed the issues of consultation and poor safeguards at the core of the protests. Meanwhile, the Peruvian government is charging ahead auctioning off what little is left of the Amazon.”

In the last seven years Peru has created over 100,000 square miles of new oil and gas concessions, an area almost two-thirds the size of California. There has been no evaluation of the cumulative impacts of this massive expansion of the oil industry in one of the most bio-diverse and culturally sensitive places on earth.

All the new concessions overlap titled indigenous lands and over half of all indigenous territories across the Amazon now lie within an oil or gas concession. New laws that facilitated the entry of extractive industries in the Amazon while weakening indigenous land rights caused some of the strongest protests the Amazon region has seen, disrupting pipelines, blockading river transport and closing down airports.

According to analyst BMI: “Seeking to transform Peru into a net hydrocarbon exporter…[President] García and his predecessor Alejandro Toledo have shown short-sightedness in leasing out large sections of the country to foreign investors without solving the underlying social conflicts.”

The government responded to protests with a violent clampdown that left police officers and 10 protesters dead and over 200 injured. President Alan García has called on police to act with a “mano dura” (heavy hand) and severity in the face of future unrest. After the protests, a process of reconciliation was established between the government and indigenous peoples, but talks broke down in January without an agreement over how to resolve underlying issues. Tensions continue to remain high.

“The government has not lived up to its obligation to protect indigenous lands,” says Daysi Zapata, president of AIDESEP. “It has not respected our right to choose our own model of development, and it has failed to consult us ahead of granting any mining, forest or hydrocarbon concessions.”